Percy Bradshaw

“When they took the bullet out of his arm in the [hospital] they gave it to him and he kept it all his life. He always carried it in his wallet.”

Private Percy Bradshaw managed to dodge the enormous green-yellow gas cloud that the Germans released on April 22, 1915, but he couldn’t avoid the bullet the next day that punctured his wrist, travelled up to his elbow, and shattered a bone on its way.

Bradshaw was on the front lines northeast of Ypres, Belgium, when the Germans launched the world’s first chemical gas attack.

Fortunately for Bradshaw and the rest of the 4th Battalion, the gas passed them by, instead rolling over the French 45th (Algerian) Division. The effects were as shocking to the troops as they were devastating. The lucky ones fled instantly at the sight of the gas. Those exposed began to suffocate as chlorine gas filled their throats.Within minutes, the Canadians were left to defend a six-kilometre-long hole in the Allies’ left flank — a dramatic start to Canada’s first engagement with the war.

Rescued from the battlefield, Bradshaw was sent to England, where he spent six months in hospital. “When they took the bullet out of his arm in the [hospital] they gave it to him and he kept it all his life. He always carried it in his wallet,” said Roger Bradshaw, his son, over the phone from St. Catharines, Ontario.

Bradshaw, like most men of his generation, was eager to enlist in the war — so eager that he signed up in September 1914, the first month that he could. “He wanted to go defend the empire against the Germans. That’s why he joined.”

Even though the gunshot wound limited mobility in his hand, he tried to sign up to serve in the Second World War when he was in his forties. Recruiters rejected him because his wound prevented him from using a rifle.

Bradshaw married Lilian Leein in 1940. Lilian died at age seventy-nine in 1986. Percy died in 1988 at ninety-four.

Percy’s brother, Alfred Bradshaw was born in Oxfordshire, England on October 21, 1889. He signed up for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on May 9, 1916 (Reg. No. 850646) assigned to the 176th Infantry Battalion (Niagara Rangers). Alfred passed away in 1969.

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